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Iron, Darkness, and the Supremacy of Sin

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There was screaming.


Cries of the devoted as they were hacked down, their throats filling with blood that warped their shrieks into bubbling gargles as their life flowed away.


Smoke and flames were everywhere. Hungry tongues devouring the mansion with a nightmarish ferocity.  Wood crached and splinted.  Sparks shot through the air and the structure groaned as smoke hung thick in every room and hall.



Through this once gilded palace of decadence and corruption, Maester Williams tore.  He was covered in blood and sweat and breathing frantically, coughing as he breathed in the acrid clouds that were chocking his once enviable estate.  His eyes were filled with a horrific fear as he tried to find a way free from the flames, the smoke, and the monster in metal that was slaughtering his congregation that were trying to save their savior.




Maester Wiliams threw his shoulder against a door and it exploded open.  He took the stairs that now rose up before him two at a time, his black robes dancing around his feet as he sobbed out a prayer to the things that had given him power.  The things he had devoted his life too. The things of the void.


He could feel them. Seething just beneath the flesh of his body. Coiling in the air around him, their glee at the madness of the purge angering him.  They should be helping him. They should be stopping this, not taking joy in the slaughter of those whom had followed his teachings and agreed to help manifest these void creatures into the world. 


The hyur felt betrayed as sweat rolled down his bearded face.  The air seethed, hot and oppressive. 


There were no more screams.  Only the crackle of flames.


And then the horrible sound of iron foot falls behind him.  The old man jerked his head around to stare wide eyed down the stairs as the sound of metal scraping over metal filled the air.


That monster was there!


Keys fumbled in his hands as the stairs groaned.  Willaims could see only dancing embers and coils of thick smoke but knew the iron mass was coming.


The key entered the lock. It turned and Williams burst onto the roof of his estate.  He took several steps from the door then turned around to peer at the door way.  His anger consumed him and his eyes turned black as he forced the void things he had trapped inside his flesh to obey.


Their sinister energies screeched in his mind as they were bound by his will to obey.  With a horrible ripping sound, William's right arm exploded into a mass of squirming tentacles.  They danced and writhed like angered serpents as the smoke poured out from the doorway.


Slowly the clanking grew louder as Williams pointed his corrupt abomination of a limb towards the door adn snarled as a shadowed form stepped into the doorway.  A glowing light seemed to be radiating from where the right eye should be of the shadowed form.


"DIE!" William shrieked as his tentacle mass shot forward, glowing a maleficent purple.  Smoke rose up around the iron figure.  There was suddenly a flash of gold and and swish of silver that raced out from the wall of smoke. 


William screamed in agony as his nest of tentacles was cleaved off him at the shoulder by a whirling, silver burr.


He shrieked in pain as he clutched at his stump with his other hand.  His insides felt as if he was being burned alive as something began to purge his body, devouring the shadowed manifestations of sin and horror he had let reside his his flesh for so many years. 


Williams felt his blood seeping through his fingers as he retreated. Embers and ash danced through the air. The sound of splintering wood filled the air as an orange light bathed the world in a sinister glow. 


"Get away from me!" the cultist barked as he gazed at the form that emerged from the wall of smoke, visible for the first time since the conflagration had begun.


It was a miqo'te but massive by the standards his species. Weirdly tall and wide as two men, the male was covered neck to toe in steel. Metal clanked as the great miqo'te sauntered forward. The winds danced in the miqo'te's white hair. A hideous scar ran down over the right side of his face and an eyepatch covered the damaged eye. The left, alabaster optic peered at the hyur as its blood drenched face twisted into an expression of contempt. A huge, double headed axe was slung on the armored back. the miqo'te's left hand held a book that glowed a tainted yellow as a silver chain whip made of razor blades and steal wire hung from his right wrist, bolted to the gauntlet.


"Get away from you?" the massive miqo'te snarled, pulling back full lips to reveal blood coated fangs as he sneered. His white hair danced around the onyx colored flesh of his face. "That's funny." The monster of a miqo'te flicked his wrist and the chain whip retracted on itself and became a short blade attached to his wrist. 


"Tell me!" the miqo'te bounty hunter named Hojo'to Zuginoch shouted as he slammed his book shut and dropped it. The book feel a foot before it snagged on the chain that connected its spine to the belt of the iron titan. Hojo's hands pulled out his massive axe as a wild look took his one eye."How many of yourrr victims begged forrr you to get away frrrom them?"


William spat blood and began an incantation. He never finished.


Hojo aimed the butt of his axe haft at the hyur and flicked a switch. The bottom of the weapon roared as half a dozen ball bearings were sent ripping into Willaim's flesh as a powder charge in the base of the weapon ignited.


William coughed blood and went violently spinning onto the ground. Blood dripped from his lips and oozed from the wounds. He gasped and wheezed as crimson filled his ruined lungs and he tried to use his one arm to crawl away frantically.


"Please!" William begged. But not for mercy. He was beseeching the sinister things he could feel around him. They were there. Watching. Mocking. They would not help him. His pleas availed him not. "Aid me!"


"The void is fickle." Hojo spat as his iron boots stormed across the  roof, shingles creaking under his feet. "But, you can prrray to them all you want." Hojo stepped up beside the man and hefted his axe high above his  head.


"It's too late forrr you."


The axe head fell like the wrath of the gods made corporeal. Blood splatted as the arteries in the neck were cleaved. The head rolled, a shocked look on its face as the body shuddered in its death throes. 


Hojo bent over and pulled off a ring from the headless cadaver and pocketed it.  He then went over to the head, pulling out a burlap sack as he went. He slipped the axe back into its sheath on his back. The miqo'te then knelt and took William's head in his hand. He stared at the face and watched the final few moments of the head's existence before the oxygen in the brain faded and the soul and mind died.  Hojo then took the grisly trophy and tossed it into the bag.


The head bounced around before it settled as Hojo turned and began to quickly make his way from the burning building.




Later, Hojo was on a road leading away from the sight of the massacre. He thought he was alone.


But something had come with him. Something dark. 


Hojo began to sing an old sailor's shanty.


The dark thing heard the song. The dark thing recognized both song and singer.


And the lips of the severed head twisted into a wicked smile.

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The fire danced in that lone, alabaster eye.


Hojo'to Zuginoch sat beside the dying flames of a small fire.  His back rested against the trunk of a tree and his hands were in his lap.  The sun shone through the branches above as they swayed in a steady wind that threatened to snuff out the dying fire.


The smell of roasted fruit was thick on the air and a small skillet was cooling in the dirt beside Hojo's improvised cooking fire.


The great bear of a miqo'te was lethargic and even the blinking of his eye was labored and slow.  The whites of his eyes where blood shot from lack of sleep and he fought from dozing off.


The bell in his left ear flicked and he rolled his eyes open to look around.


He was beside a small, dirt road some miles from the ruin of William's estate.  It had been a moonless night and Hojo had spent longer than he had intended trying to navigate by the celestial heavens.  It wasn't until the sun's first rays began to illuminate the horizon that the Keeper had decided there was enough distance between himself and the burnt out husk to stop to eat and rest.


Hojo's eye saw the bag and he sniffed.  Already the hint of decay could be caught around the bloody head.  The smell had attracted a pair of flies whom danced in unison around the bloody sack.  Hojo watched them.


Such was life.  From king to beggar, in the end, everyone became ash and fly shit.


Well, unless they engaged in cavorting with the powers of the Void like William had.


Hojo leaned his head against the tree trunk, his white hair sweeping across his face as the breeze grew stronger.


Taking William's head had been both pleasure and necessity.  Even before Hojo had seen the horrors the old hyur had been inflicting upon random victims, the bounty hunter had known the man to be a cult leader.  The evidence had been presented to him in droves and the Keeper had happily accepted the work. But to see the way William and his cult had twisted those bodies of women and children into void warped monstrosities made his stomach sick.  He took in a deep breath as he recalled having to put them out their misery.


Hojo grunted as one child's face stood out in his memory. The watery, bulging optics had looked up at him as the broken mouths that had grown across its warped flesh begged to be free of the ruined, mortal coil.  Hojo had obliged the boy. Hojo could only hope the soul of the child was free of the taint his body had been forced to succumb to.


Hojo closed his eyes and sucked in another breath.


The wind blew and the fire died.


And the cackling began.


A twisted, ruined sound that was a horrible, sick imitation of mirth.


"Well, well, what a treat/

Once again we do meet/

Been time since we did talk/

One they call Zuginoch?"


Hojo's eye flared open and he surged onto his feet as if he had been struck by lighting, his armor rattling and chain mail grinding as his axe spun through his hands.  His heart was hammering as he gazed around, looking frantically for the source of that voice.  A voice from his past. The voice of the voidspawn he called 'Rhyme'. 


Hojo's left ear was flicking wildly, ringing the bell bolted to it so he could hear that sweet, musical sound. The only sound that might calm him and keep his nightmares from rolling over him and consuming him.


"You!" Hojo shouted, snarling, acting more aggressive than he felt.  "You can't be herrre!"


"O, now, is that a fact/

Then at whom are you yelling at/

If not here I be, then where/

Perhaps lodged in your underwear?"


The voice began to laugh and sing the last word over and over as the white ears of the miqo'te located the source of the terrible rhymes.


The bag with the head.


The sack was shuddering atop the stump and Hojo had just enough time to realize what was going on before the head rolled itself out of the bag.  The severed mass of bone, brain and organs spilled onto the ground and rolled several feet before it came to rest.  William's eyes flew open, revealing two, black, soulless orbs where eyes should be.  Bloody, purplish lips moved and William's mouth spoke in a voice not his own.


"Do you believe me now that it is I/

Or the facts do you still deny?/

I know not what else to do/

Except say "Tis is true! Tis true!"


The horrible rhyming. The giggles, the cackles. It was just like before when Hojo had met Rhythm two years ago. In Kerhiem.  One of the many voidspawn whom had been summoned there.  And the one whom had tormented Hojo the most. 


But this abomination and it's kin where sealed.  Trapped away.  This should not be possible!


"I saw you sealed!" Hojo growled.  "All of you. You werrre beaten!"


The head laughed wildly, trembling as it did so.


"Beaten true, but not defeated/

For history shall be repeated/

Me and kin are leaking out/

Thanks to many a foolish lout."


"How! You werrre hidden and sealed. Yourrr cell was hidden beyond this worrrld!" Hojo was staring down at the head as his fist clenched the haft of his axe tightly


Hojo had to know.  This was wrong. All wrong.


Two years ago he and a band of exorcists and paladins had taken on a job to help protect a small hamlet deep in the mountains from a serious of attacks of a supernatural bent.  But, upon arrival, the true degree of horror the town was afflicted with had become evident.  For seven months the villagers and Hojo's band had slowly been devoured, possessed, or driven mad by the horrors there.  In the end, it had taken a herculean effort of faith and will to defeat the horrors.  Most of the survivors had perished in their efforts to ensure the ritual was completed.  The ritual had bound the pack of voidspawn beyond the veil, trapped and cut off in a prison of the head priest's designs.


"Tornel bound you all!  I was therrre!  The prrrison was sound!"


Hojo kept saying that, trying to convince himself it was true.


The head cackled.


"Sound, sound, sound all around/

Even deep within the ground./

But you fools were all deceived/

For from this prison we are retrieved.


By those whom -she- has taught the skills/

And so upon this world we shall inflict our ills/

In exchange for obedience to her will/

And so we serve her still."


"Shut up!" Hojo roared, his anger and confusion bursting out of him as furious roar. The terrible, broken rhymes were only adding to the frustration.


"Little miqo'te almost broken,/

I see you wear the musical token./

Tell, does silence still disturb you so?/

Should have gotten over that long ago."



Hojo swallowed and he was sweating as his bell danced faster and faster in his ear as he tried to keep himself calm.  He had to keep that noise going. Any noise. If the silence found him, especially now, he would lose it. And this thing might then work whatever fowl magics it would.  Hojo had so many more questions. But this was not the one to ask.


"Enough!" Hojo surged forward and hefted the axe above his head.


The twisted eyes in William's skull went wide as Rhyme began to cackle wildly.


"Its seems our reunion is at an end/

We we shall meet again, that is the trend./

So till that time I laugh with you again/

I wish you well my friend."


The axe fell and the head exploded in a shower of bone fragments and grey matter.  Ruined flesh and icor ran down Hojo's cheeks and he breathed wildly, frantically, the bell in his ear dancing and ringing wildly.  He couldn't stop that sound. He needed that sound.


The bear of a miqo'te, whom seemed so often immune to fear, trembled wildly as he released his axe.  He fell to his knees and hugged himself as he be began to choke back sobs.  His eyes watered as he stared at the ground.


"Not again...not again...not again..."


Hojo clutched his head and screamed.

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The restaurant had once been a high and well to do establishment, nestled comfortably between massive building that towered up to join the rest of the Limsa skyline. But that was no more. Now the renowned restaurant had fallen to the wayside and clung to its former glory as best it could. Few, if any one of any upper class status now came here and even fewer working class figures came here due to the still extraordinarily high prices the menu claimed the food was worth. But despite all this, a lone figure sat at a table; his mouth chewing veraciously on a mouthful of meat. On the table before him was a pile of dirty and used plates, cups, bowls, napkins and silverware; all crusted with food.


The young looking miqo'te that called himself 'Crate' tore another chunk off of his sandwich and chewed, his ears ringing with the loud music pumping through the two, custom built linkpearls that were inserted into his pointed ears.  He was small and sickly looking and dressed in robes that were several sizes too big for him.  For a Seeker, his flesh was a disturbingly pale and his blond hair was a puffy, tangled mess.  His twin, black eyes looked over the sea of food that awaited him and he kept eating. In truth it was amazing that a, well, boy whom looked like a strong wind might blow him over, could consume so much


For the past three and half hours Crate had been sitting at the table, eating and keeping the flames in the kitchen burning hot. The thin, young man was enjoying himself immensely, though the restaurant staff was growing tired. Crate swallowed a chunk of food, his throat bulging as the wad slid slowly down, his body shaking wildly to the instrumental beat that pulsed into his ears. He was about to take another large bite when a figure tapped his shoulder and he spun around quickly, his eyes gazing up at a tall man dressed in a fine suit. Crate beamed a smile at the newcomer. The waiter moved his mouth to say something but whatever he had said was lost as the music’s roar.


“What?”Crate yelled, forgetting that he was the only one hearing the loud noise that was coming through the pearl. The waiter, slightly startled by Crate’s outburst, took a moment to recompose himself before asking again. Again, Crate couldn’t hear any thing and shouted as he stuck the last piece of the sandwich into his mouth. 


 “Sorry!” Crate yelled. “Still can’t here you!” The waiter brushed the showering of crumbs off his suit and pulled the pearls out of Crate’s ears and handed them to the miqo'te. 


“Hey now!” protested Crate, his mouth still full of food as he snatched up his linkpearls. “I was enjoying that.” 


“I am well aware of that fact.” came the waiter, who was doing his best to hide the edge in his voice as he spoke to the young man. 


“Then why’d ya go and pull it off like that?” whined Crate as he swallowed; his eyes bulging slightly and a smile covering his face. “Could have just asked.” 


“I tried,” the waiter paused and decided best to just move to the matter at hand. “Anyway the cooks are taking a break, so I’m going to need to ask that you pay your tab now and leave.” 


 “And what if I’m still hungry?” Crate inquired, his eyes wide and pleading. The waiter looked at the mountain of plates stacked up before him and raised an eyebrow. 


“If you are,” muttered the waiter. “I’ll need to send you done to med hall for examination.” Crate burst into hysterical laughter and leaned back in his chair, his left arm slapping the waiter good humoredly. 


“Well I guess I can call it a day then. But I’ll be back later.  After all, I'm eating for more than just me!” Crate finished speaking and then calmly let himself fall backwards, his chair hitting the ground. As soon as the wooden chair hit the marble floor, Crate used the inertia created to roll backwards and rise to his feet. The waiter stood, staring at the spectacle. “Well thanks for the grub. Laters.”


Crate was already halfway towards the door when his field of vision suddenly became consumed by a small sheet of white paper with a very large number attached to the bottom. The waiter cleared his throat.


“Your tab.” and after a moment, the Waiter added sarcastically. “Sir.” For a moment Crate could only stare at the number, his smile falling slightly. 


“You sure that bill is mine?” chuckled Crate, his eyes twinkling suddenly as an idea crept into his blonde haired head. 


“Without a doubt.” replied the Waiter and Crate didn’t miss the hint of triumph in the voice. 


“Well then.”Crate paused and looked over at the bar. “Since I don’t think that’s my tab, I’m going to challenge you to a little drinking game.” The young man was already over at the bar and seating himself on a stool, his eyes running over the various liquids available. “Here’s the game. I bet that I can empty one glass of milk before you can drink two shots of any liquor you choose. I win, the tab isn’t mine, you win and I’ll do all the dishes for you, plus pay the tab.” Crate turned back and looked at the stupefied waiter. “Sound fine to you?” 


For a moment, the man in the waiter’s suit could only wonder at the ridiculous statement the boy had made. This was absurd! But Crate gave a cough and the waiter thought. If he was too lose, his boss would take it out of his hid for losing all the money. On the plus side, it would be wonderful to see this boy put in his place for once. Besides, there was no way Crate could drink a large glass of milk before he could drink two shots. So, with a bit of a strut, the waiter climbed behind the counter and looked Crate right in the eyes. 


“You’re on.” 


“Excellent.” was Crates response and he watched with feigned interest as the waiter began to fumble with various cups. Crate was not surprised when the biggest glass he had ever seen was placed before him, the milk right up against the brim. The waiter then placed to shots of Brandy on the counter and the two glared at each other like a pair of gun slingers. 


“I trust you’re ready?” sneered the waiter. 


“I guess.”Replied Crate, a yawn escaping his lips. 


“Then, go!” the waiter had already seized the first shot and had thrown his head back, the brandy hot on his throat. His other hand was already fumbling for the second shot when he felt something cold and wet hit the flesh of his hand. He looked down and saw the tall glass upside down and the milk flowing all over the counter and dripping off the sides onto the floor. Crate had already left his seat and was heading out the door. 


“Hey!”shrieked the waiter, his face a mask of utter outrage. “Just what are you doing?” 


“Um,” came Crate, sticking his head back through the door. “I won the bet sooooo I’m leaving.” 


“You did not! You didn’t even have a sip, you only spilt the glass. You lost” shouted the obstinate waiter. 


“No,” came Crate again, a smile playing at the corners of his mouth. “I won, see the bet was I could empty a glass of milk before you could drink two shots of liquor and from where I’m standing, that glass looks pretty empty.” The waiter stared in shock, the realization of Crate’s words hitting him like a hammer. Crate shrugged and flashed the waiter a wink. “See you for dinner!” And with that the young man was gone, the door closing with a triumphant slam.   The waiter paused a minute, his brain still processing what had transpired. Suddenly he came to life and ran for the door after Crate to force him to pay. The waiter burst into the street but by then, Crate had disappeared in the crowd.


Among the throngs of people, the small miqo'te weaved, slipping his linkpearls back in, the music playing again as he grinned to himself.


"Crate."  the small male blinked as his master's voice spilled over the comm and he waved his hand.  The music stopped and he lowered his voice as he smiled.


"Ah, there you are, my dear master. Was wondering when you would be contacting me."


"I apologize for the delay." the sultry, female voice replied back.  "There have been some issues.  But things are progressing."


"So the prison is weakening?" Crate inquired as he ducked down a side alley.


"Slowly, but we need more help and William's coven was just butchered." 


Crate stopped to stand, stupidly, as he pulled out a toothpick and began to pick roast beef from between his teeth.


"Well, shit. That's a set back."


"Not entirely." the female voice answered.  "One of the voidspawn managed to find an old friend of mine from Kerhiem.


Crate blinked.


"Tornel?" Crate answered at last as he flicked the tooth pick away.  "He's in the asylum I...oh!" Crate nodded eagerly, his mop of hair shaking.  "You mean the sexy collection of metal and muscle. Mhmm I've missed that delicious morsel."


"For a creature over a hundred, you certainly have the drive of a young man." the female replied.  Crate laughed.


"Blame the hormones in this body.  Now then, I take it you didn't call to tease me with a good time."


"Not at all." the female chuckled.  "I need you to get to Tornel before Hojo'to does.  As much as it pains me to say this, I need Tornel removed from this world."


"Axing off an old lover and a useful pawn.  Man, this is urgent."  Crate twitched his tail.  "Can't you make him kill himself via the hex on him?"


"He's warded from me." the female replied. Crate grunted at that.


"Great, gotta do this in person. Alright, I'll start packing and have it done quick as a couerl takes a shit.  Or as quick as a virgin man comes"  Crate snickered impishly.


"Crate." the female voice added, ignoring the miqo'te's lewd statement.  "You are not to tamper with his soul or reanimate his body.  A clean death."


"Excuse me..." Crate laughed. "Is that a soft side to you I'm seeing?  Never fear, it'll be clean, Master. Nice and clean. I'll be in touch once its complete."


"Expect to be checking in with Terbia's coven once done. Now that William is a splattered ruin, her organization remains the most efficient means at drawing out the voidspawn at a reasonable pace."


"Your will be done Master."  Crate heard the line go dead.  He waved his hand and the music resumed. 


"It's a good day." Crate grinned as he began to head back towards his hotel room, excited.

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